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We judge all headphones on a scale of 10, analyzing the categories we think are most important: sound, comfort, design, battery performance, and, if applicable, special features. Here's how the Bose QuietComfort II Earbuds stack up.
Two years after releasing their first pair of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds, Bose launched their highly anticipated QuietComfort Earbuds II. The new buds bring refined design, ergonomic improvements, and upgraded hardware for next-level sound and noise cancellation. With all of these upgrades, its $299 price tag is just $20 higher than the previous iteration's launch sticker — a price difference that's well worth the extra cash.
Bose set the product category's gold standard for noise cancellation with the QuietComfort earbuds in 2020. I began testing the QuietComfort II with weighty expectations, and it lived up to almost all of them. Here’s why Bose’s latest true wireless offering is a worthy follow-up to an excellent product.
• Sound: 9/10
• Comfort: 9/10
• Design: 8/10
• Battery Performance: 7/10
• Overall Score: 8/10
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II at a Glance
Best-in-class noise cancellation and aware mode
Balanced sound with basic customization tools
Up to 6 hours of battery life
The QuietComfort Earbuds II’s noise cancellation is the best I have experienced yet and the industry’s new gold standard. Remarkably, so is their “aware” mode, which helps you remain connected to your surroundings (e.g., during outdoor walks, while commuting, etc.). Bose upgraded the earbuds’ aware mode with a new feature called ActiveSense, which brings superior audio transparency by subtly engaging noise cancellation upon detecting louder noises, thus improving the listening experience without blocking out all noises. For comparison, the awareness mode of the product’s rivals often channels in ambient noises more aggressively.
The buds also efficiently tune out ambient sounds, transforming the traffic below my fourth-floor apartment into complete silence. Better yet, during a rush hour walk to work through midtown Manhattan, activating the feature felt like pressing a “mute” button on the world around me.
Unsurprisingly, the latest QuietComfort earbuds produce a signature Bose sound with slightly enhanced bass, detailed mid-range, and crisp treble. I streamed multiple music genres — from downtempo albums to classical concertos — and enjoyed the sonic experience for them all. Podcasts sounded great on the buds, too.
Unlike the previous iteration, the QuietComfort Earbuds II can calibrate the sound to your hearing using a new tech, dubbed CustomTune. The earphones will play a tone when you put them on and adjust their performance after measuring the unique response of your ear canals. CustomTune is also instrumental for the buds' noise cancellation and aware modes.
You can easily adjust the bass, the treble, and the mid-range right from the Bose Music app. Preset buttons for boosting or reducing the bass and the treble are also available. Audio customization tools were notably missing in the first-generation QuietComfort earbuds at launch, but they arrived later via a firmware update.
The customization process mentioned is instant. For comparison, some competitors require completing a hearing test via their companion app to deliver personalized sound.
Telephone, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom calls all sounded exceptionally clear on the QuietComfort II, courtesy of four microphones per earbud. Thanks to Bluetooth 5.3, the earbuds maintained a flawless link to an iPhone 14 Pro Max while I tested them.
I tip my hat to Bose for making the QuietComfort Earbuds II smaller and comfier than the original. At almost 9 grams per earbud, the first iteration is significantly bulkier than the 6.2-gram sequel.
The lighter weight of the new earbuds results in smaller stability bands to secure their fit. The first-generation QuietComfort earphones require unwieldier ear wings that, combined with their larger housings, are more likely to cause pesky fatigue. I spent hours with the new version without feeling a hint of the latter.
Bose equipped the QuietComfort Earbuds II with a fantastic set of touch controls. You can control the audio playback, toggle between noise cancellation or aware mode, take calls, and adjust the volume via swiping gestures on each earbud. An option to set up shortcuts for accessing your go-to virtual assistant by long-pressing the left or right earphone is also available through the app.
Overall, the everyday comfort and the quality of the earbuds' controls are stellar and on par with the expectations set by their hefty price tag. The Bose earphones are also comfier than the range-topping Sony WF-1000XM4 and second only to the latest Apple AirPods Pro in terms of ergonomics.
Bose treated the QuietComfort Earbuds II to a distinctive design that's somewhere between compact and stem-toting earbuds. The characterful setup is an improvement over the sizable curved housings of the original. You can order a set in triple black or soapstone with a matching case.
The earbuds’ IPX4 rating for water resistance makes them suitable for exercising, as long as it doesn’t involve activities in pouring rain or rough terrains. We suggest earbuds with a higher water and dust resistance rating for these tasks.
BATTERY PERFORMANCE: 6/10
The 6-hour maximum battery life of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is solid, considering their compact size and outstanding noise cancellation. Curiously, there is no option to eke out more time between charges by disabling noise cancellation and aware mode. You can only choose one or the other for the time being.
Even though it's noticeably more compact than its predecessor, the charging case of the new QuietComfort earbuds holds more full charges (three versus two). However, the essential accessory lacks wireless charging support. Considering the product's hefty price tag and the wireless charging capabilities of the first generation, this is a strange omission.
Superior noise cancellation and just-as-stellar aware mode are the main reasons you should splurge on the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. Their proficiency in eliminating distractions in any scenario is second to none. The earbuds' comfort and design improvements have also taken a giant leap forward compared to the original.
The buds' sound quality is also stellar, though the slightly heavier, slightly cheaper Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds have an edge in this department. Sony's range-topping buds can deliver higher-fidelity audio with support for high-resolution content and more customization options. On the other hand, the new AirPods Pro brings incredible integration with Apple hardware and more charging options for less.
Consider the previous-generation Bose QuietComfort earbuds if you're looking for good sound and noise cancellation for less. Fresh off a significant price cut, the under-$200 earbuds are still a solid option for the money.
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